Saturday, August 27, 2011

Couples doesn't back up tough talk on Tiger

So it recently hit me -- man, I used to be a sports writer. So why the hell am I not writing about sports?
Here we go.
I’ll take a break from being the old man yelling from his porch to be, well, the old man yelling at Fred Couples. (Nothing like reaching a key demo with some golf talk. Maybe next week I’ll break down professional bull riding!)
Frankly, I’m disappointed that Couples so casually added Tiger Woods to the United States’ Presidents Cup team on Thursday, just one week after calling out the former greatest golfer alive.
Couples, the U.S. captain and a PGA Tour veteran and fan favorite, stunned many when he “dared” to challenge Tiger publicly, saying that Woods needed to play in more golf tournaments.
Calling out Tiger used to be a career killer, for golfers and media alike. Woods is known for having a long memory, and if you got on his bad side he’d either crush you on the course or refuse to speak to you. (There’s a long-standing rumor that Woods wouldn’t do interviews with CBS’ Peter Kostis for years because Kostis had a close relationship with Phil Mickelson. And let’s just say the relationship between Tiger and Lefty has never been warm and fuzzy)
But Couples did it -- he called out Woods. He made it quite clear, if Tiger was going to be selected to play in the Presidents’ Cup, he would have to play more golf. Which, you know what, makes a helluva lot of sense.
You cannot dispute that Woods doesn’t deserve to play in the Cup. (Which, seriously, nobody ever cared about in the first place. It’s like tennis’ Davis Cup -- if it ain’t Wimbledon, nobody’s paying attention)
Tiger is three-plus years removed from his last major. During that span he’s wrecked his marriage, lost most of his sponsors, undergone two knee surgeries and suffered one of the biggest and most humiliating public embarrassments that any athlete or celebrity has ever endured.
And besides that, he can’t drive the ball in the fairway anymore.
Tiger Woods is no better than an average professional golfer at the moment.
But would you still want him on your team? It’s hard to argue. His career resume should get him a free pass to the Presidents’ and Ryder Cup teams for at least another decade.
But after all his tough talk, Couples just rolled over this week, saying, “There is no reason for me to wait till Sept. 26 (the cutoff date for Couples to set his Cup roster) to pick Tiger. He’s the best player in the world forever.”
C’mon Freddy, stick to your guns. If I didn’t know any better I’d say that quote was crafted directly from Tiger’s PR people.
It’s tough for me to swallow because I think that Couples was right in the first place. Tiger has never played in many tournaments. He picks and chooses his spots, and more power to him, he’s still been successful.
But there are plenty other good, young American golfers that are playing at a much higher level than Woods right now and also play in 20-25 tournaments per season.
Don’t they deserve a spot more?
With that said, if I were captain you’re damn right I’d pick Tiger. Leaving him off the roster would be like passing up Michael Jordan when you’re picking teams for 5-on-5 -- he may be washed up but jeez, he’s still Michael Freaking Jordan.
It made me so happy to hear someone call out Woods though. He claims to have changed, that the Bimbo Patrol and his little car accident made him into a new man with new priorities.
And yet, this New Tiger still plays in relatively no PGA tournaments, is still icy with the media and, oh yeah, stinks at golf.
So yeah, he’s changed all right. He doesn’t win any more -- that’s a big change.
In the grand scheme of things I don’t mind that Couples selected Woods for the Presidents’ Cup team, I just wish he wouldn’t have flip-flopped so much. Don’t talk tough then get all soft on us.
Every now and then I think Woods needs to be reminded that he’s not an iconic figure anymore. That he’s not untouchable. That he can’t get away with never playing golf tournament and being an ass to everybody that asks him a question.
But that’s what Tiger does.
And it’ll be interesting to see how much the interest lasts if he continues to not contend in these tournaments.
Woods still drives the bus that is the PGA Tour -- ratings double every time he’s in the field. So of course he’s playing in the Presidents’ Cup, it’s apparently not golf unless Tiger is involved.
And while I find it difficult to fault Couples’ decision, I don’t agree with his logic. Woods needs to earn a spot on the U.S. roster with his play, not with his aura.
And when I say “play,” I don’t necessarily mean his scores. I mean, he actually has to PLAY golf competitively. (I know, it must be daunting to get paid to play 18 holes while someone carries your bag for you. Very stressful)
But to me, it doesn’t even seem like Tiger is making an effort to change.
And that’s why I agree with Couples from last week, and am disappointed with Couples from this week.
Someone needed to light a fire under Tiger’s ass, and I thought Freddy was the man to do it.
Apparently not.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

When we want your opinion, West Coast, we'll ask for it

West Coasters are already making light of Tuesday’s 5.8 quake. (
So that didn’t take long.
You know what, I’m gonna give ’em this one.
If they need to believe they’re better than us for a day, I say go for it. We’ll take the other 364.
Because it’s funny that the East Coast isn’t prepared for earthquakes. We’re too busy running the damn country to reinforce our skyscrapers.
What we are prepared for are blizzards, ice storms and hurricanes. God knows, if one inch of snow fell on Southern California the entire Western seaboard would shut down.
I mean, you voted the Terminator as your governor! And we’re supposed to take your opinion seriously?
Your biggest city doesn’t even have an NFL team! Really?
We just hand out NFL franchises here on the East Coast -- even to our shitty cities. Why else would anyone want to go to Buffalo or Jacksonville?
And you know what, if I was that high on medicinal marijuana I probably wouldn’t have been scared during the earthquake either.
So shut up, West Coast. We don't care what you think, ever.
And the baffling thing is, I don’t know how West Coasters found the time to criticize us, with all their psychotherapist appointments and the hours they spend each day making the rest of us feel guilty for not driving hybrids.
Go back to your cafĂ© lattes. Go back to your screenplays and life coaches. We don’t care what you think about us.
You’re three hours behind us for a reason, West Coast.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Random Rantings

- Money? Yachts? Prostitutes? Was The U just a giant Puff Daddy music video from the '90s?
- Hey Michelle Bachmann, if you know how to lower taxes, increase jobs and drop gas prices to $2 per gallon, could you let us know, like, now. I know you're planning on dropping these truth bombs on us when you're President, but I find it un-American that you're making us wait. (P.S. I do agree with you that carbon dioxide is not harmful. It simply cannot be, because you've been spewing volumes of it the last few months and we're all still here. In your face, 8th grade science teacher!)
- David Ortiz tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. This isn't breaking news -- it was actually reported in 2009. Yet, nobody seems to remember. Thought I'd remind everybody.
- Ray Lewis got 12 months probation. Plaxico Burress served two years in prison. Just sayin'.
- Yo, New Yorkers, anything north of NYC doesn't classify as "upstate." Binghamton is in the Southern Tier. Syracuse is in the center of the state. Yonkers isn't freaking UPSTATE! You're not in "upstate" New York unless you can make it to Canada on a quarter tank of gas.
- What's with all these fast food franchises adding sea salt to their fries? Get that healthy crap outta here. Believe me, nobody gains five pounds after eating fast food and is surprised. When you walk into an Arby's, you know what you're getting into. There's no need to pretend to be healthy. If you want sea salt, shop at Whole Foods.
- Luke Donald, the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world, was recently whining about the 260-yard par-3 at the PGA Championship, saying that pro golfers should never have to hit woods off the tee on par 3s. Really, Luke Donald? God forbid you actually are challenged on a golf course. Because I make my living (millions less than you, by the way) hitting woods on par 3s. And I'm allowed to complain about it because I suck at golf and I actually carry my own bag. What a baby. WAAAAAHH, I don't wanna hit a wood off the tee. WAAAAAHHHH! Either win a major or quit bitching.
- Pennsylvania is simply the worst state ever (though I've never been to either Dakota, I can't believe they're any worse). You'd think with all the road construction going on that its highways would, at some point in time, be in good shape. Also, way to be conservative by blocking off a lane for 5 miles when you're working on a 20-foot strip of road. Efficiency -- that's what Pennsylvania is all about.
- You can rip the Jersey Shore people all you want, but currently The Situation is getting paid big money to get drunk, sleep with chicks, and now NOT wear Abercrombie & Fitch. If he ain't a genius, I don't know who is.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Best Show You're Not Watching

Remember when TV Guide would put out its yearly “The Best Show You’re Not Watching” edition? (Or maybe the more relevant question is, does anyone remember TV Guide?)
Well, now it’s my turn.
And the best show you’re not watching is Breaking Bad.
Basically I’ve been addicted to three shows in my lifetime -- The X-Files, 24 and Lost.
Breaking Bad now makes four.
To sum up the series, it’s about a high school science teacher who gets diagnosed with cancer and resorts to cooking meth to pay off his medical bills. (Makes sense)
It’s dark, no doubt. But the characters are deep and tremendously played. There’s a good bit of humor and there’s plenty of moments that make you hold your breath … even though everybody knows the main characters aren’t going to die.
But that’s when you know a show is great. There was no chance in hell that Jack Bauer was going to die on 24. Not by Nina. Not by the Salazars. Not even when that nuke detonated in downtown L.A.
And yet, every episode you were on the edge of your seat screaming at the TV, rooting Jack on.
Epic television.
Breaking Bad is similar in that way. It’s a lot more dynamic than 24 (which had a very predictable structure, even though it separated itself from the television pack by killing off nearly everybody but Jack Bauer and clearly informing the audience that NO ONE is safe). Breaking Bad is also more character driven -- there are very few shootouts or car chases. It’s all about what’s said or not said. In fact, some of the series’ most powerful scenes haven’t included a single line of dialogue. (And if anyone out there does watch the show, the scene in this year’s premiere involving Gus is a great example)
I don’t expect people to go out and start watching The X-Files or Lost from the beginning -- those are genre shows that require a whole lot of time and a whole lot of brainpower.
Breaking Bad is in its fourth season and there’s only 10-13 eps per season. So there’s no reason you shouldn’t be watching.
In fact, I give you this personal guarantee -- go buy, rent or (clearing throat) illegally download the first season, which is only seven episodes, and you WILL be hooked.
Who doesn’t want to watch a middle aged science teacher transform into Tony Montana?
Believe me, Breaking Bad is the best thing on television right now … and it’s not even close.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Return to writing

One might argue that the day I stopped being a writer was the day I moved to D.C.
No more press passes. No bylines. My days of sitting courtside at the Carrier Dome, sadly, were over.
I had been a sports writer for seven years -- 2 at Ithaca College and 5 at The Citizen newspaper in Auburn, NY. That’s nothing compared to the decades my father has spent in the business, first in front of a typewriter, now a laptop.
But to me, seven years felt like an eternity.
Now, it’s been nearly three months since I’ve written anything more than an email. I’m officially an “assistant editor” at my new job in Washington, which is a fancy way of saying I proofread press releases and add commas to text when needed.
But any writer will tell you -- you never really stop being a writer.
For four years I wrote columns at The Citizen, mostly about Syracuse football and basketball. Column writing is tricky -- it’s typically an opinion, which means you’re probably going to piss off at least a portion of your readers, if not a majority.
Luckily for me, I am highly opinionated on all topics. I am undoubtedly my father’s son, who taught me long ago that the louder your voice gets, the more you know about any subject.
So column writing was perfect for me, because even if I know nothing about a topic, I can convince you that I do.
My final column at The Citizen was following Syracuse’s second-round exit in this year’s NCAA tournament. I spent 904 words trashing Scoop Jardine, the junior point guard who nearly single-handedly corrupted the Orange’s season. It was ruthless and possibly unfair at times.
But it was pure passion on the page.
I loved it.
And it wasn’t something that had just occurred to me at the time -- it was a thesis that I had developed throughout the season. I didn’t just suddenly turn on Scoop. I had seen, and predicted, that Syracuse’s demise would be at his hand. And while I remain an Orange diehard at heart, I did take some joy in being entirely correct. (Which is what we writers do. When we finally get something right, you’re GOING to hear about it.)
I haven’t turned any opinions to text in recent months, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been crafting columns. I write them in my head nearly every day -- in the shower, on my walk to the metro, when I’m laying in bed at night. I formulate expansive opinions on everything, from Tiger Woods (you can’t ACT like Old Tiger when you’re PLAYING like New Tiger) to the weather in D.C. (It’s freaking Ecuador here. I seriously haven’t stopped sweating in two months).
So it’s time that I put these words to paper, or in this case, on the Internet.
Nobody may read this blog, and you know what, that’s fine with me. I always contended that I wrote columns purely to entertain myself, and if I can make myself think, or make myself laugh, then others may do the same as well.
I have no hopes of turning this blog into The Big Lead or Barstool, despite the visions of Ryan Patenaude, who apparently is my business manager as well as my close friend.
My goal of this blog is pure and simple -- to write. So I’ll pen a few columns about Syracuse football and basketball. I may tackle a few issues within the NBA and NFL. I may also write a bit about TV and movies, or about the D.C. metro which is going to give me an aneurysm sooner rather than later.
Basically, if I construct a column in my head, I’m eventually going to share it on this forum.
And from time to time, we’re going to have a few guest bloggers as well -- John Day has expressed an interest, as have my former colleague Kristin Wolford and one of the best dressed men on Capitol Hill, Todd Garvey.
I won’t be writing daily. And I won’t have any breaking news or inside information. If you want that, follow Adam Shefter on Twitter.
But what I will have is a venue to vent. It’ll be my own personal therapy.
Hopefully it’ll make you think or make you laugh. At times it may do both. At times it may do neither.
Either way, I’ll be able to write again. And that’s what I do.